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NBA teams should jump at chance to get Becky Hammon

Updated May 8, 2023 - 10:18 am

Becky Hammon is the best coach in the WNBA and the best head coaching candidate in the NBA.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors should offer her their head coaching vacancies while they have the chance.

Hammon is the coach of the defending WNBA champion Aces — and should be the top coaching choice for Milwaukee, Toronto and any other NBA franchise that has a vacancy when the postseason concludes. The Raptors have requested permission from the Aces to speak with the WNBA’s reigning Coach of the Year, who also would be ideal for the Bucks amid a championship-caliber roster anchored by two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Eight years an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, Hammon reimagined the way the Aces played in her first year as their coach and helped them break through the championship barrier they faced during their first four seasons in Las Vegas.

She pledged to be transparent with her players about any opportunities elswhere.

“I’m their coach,” Hammon said last week, “and they know I love being their coach.”

Long overdue

A chance to coach in the NBA is long overdue for Hammon, who has — and does — the best job in the WNBA, having proved that last season.

If the pedigree of a playing career that propelled her across the globe and this year into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, or that of eight years under the great Gregg Popovich wasn’t enough to garner an offer, then surely what she showcased on the sideline last season should be.

Tactically, Hammon is brilliant, turning an overpowering but rigid and predictable offense into a free-flowing and fluid one with largely the same personnel she inherited. Her spread offense brought out the best in A’ja Wilson, Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young, who collectively propelled the Aces to the league’s top offensive rating (111.9). Wilson, in a new roving role, became the Defensive Player of the Year, anchoring a defense that finished the playoffs third in defensive rating (103.1).

Situationally, Hammon is spectacular, adjusting in the postseason based on matchups the opposition offered in successive series. She doesn’t hesitate to scrap a game plan, change a matchup or alter lineups if a more suitable alternative is available. The Aces succeeded with big and small lineups and at fast and slow paces. Her play calls in timeouts helped the Aces score crucial baskets down the stretch of playoff games.

Structurally, Hammon is sound, communicating openly and clearly with players about their responsibilities with the bigger picture in mind. She navigated the ebbs and flows of the regular season, ensuring the Aces peaked toward the end and maintained the buy-in of her players amid situational changes in roles, minutes and shots.

“Obviously whenever we walk in, she wants us to give her 100 percent effort and be locked in 100 percent,” Young said last week.

That they were last year — especially in the postseason.

‘A great coach’

Other quality coaching candidates are available, too.

Such as Nick Nurse, whom the Raptors fired four years after he coached them to the 2018-19 NBA championship. Or Frank Vogel, who coached the Los Angeles Lakers to the 2019-20 title after stints with the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic. Assistants Charles Lee (Bucks), Adrian Griffin (Raptors) and Kenny Atkinson (Golden State Warriors) are also available.

But so, too, is Hammon.

“She’s a great coach,” Young said. “She’s one of the best in the league, and so with that things are going to come.”

An NBA coaching offer hasn’t.

But it should.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on Twitter.

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